New to Azure DevOps? Here are a few customization recommendations you can make with minimal experience and deliver maximum value. User Stories are an essential part of delivering using agile methodologies, and Azure DevOps provides a basic template for creating a User Story, such as title, description, and acceptance criteria. However, there are a few additional fields the author of user stories can capture to maximize their agile journey such as MoSCoW priority, Precedence, and Size Estimate to name a few.
In addition, there is a Marketplace (i.e. Library) of Azure DevOps Extensions that can enhance your user’s DevOps experience. The post will cover the recommended extensions to apply to “Out of the Box” implementations of Azure DevOps.
Azure DevOps “Process” Updates: New Fields
Adding Fields to a User Story is very simple, as long as you have access to do so. Upon opening your Azure DevOps (ADO) project, select “Project Settings”, and the “Project details” page should appear. Select the “Process” defined for that project, e.g. “Scrum”. Depending upon which Process type selected, “Scrum” or “Agile”, you will see “Product Backlog Item” or “User Story”. Both may be used interchangabily. Note that only “inherited” processes can be modified by “Project Collection Administrators” group.
A list of Work Item Types appear. Select “User Story” or “Product Backlog Item”. The Layout of the work item will be displayed. Now you are able to add fields, by selecting the “New Field” button.
User Story – MoSCoW for MVP
For a Minimum Viable Product (MVP), where is the line drawn to get the product “out the door”? Here is a methodology called MoSCoW, self-explanatory, in which the capitalization is important and stands for:
- “Must Have” – we aren’t going to production without it
- Should Have” – borderline must have but could fall off the MVP list if there is pressure to reduce scope to meet timelines, for example.
- Could Have” – a story identified but not prioritized in the currently targeted MVP.
- “Won’t Have” – identified and then forgotten. It will never reach prod.
User Story – Precedence (Prioritization)
Reminiscent of the original BASIC programming language, using 10, 20, 30, etc., line numbers for execution sequence. In addition, like in BASIC, implement precedence by 10s, so there is room later on to fit in additional work items.
Priority within the Sprint for a given team member
How should someone on the implementation team prioritize their work? Especially important if the team runs out of time for a sprint and only produces the highest business or technology value first.
Priority within a Sprint for all team members
Collectively, as input from the product owner or team tech lead, the most important work items to deliver within a sprint.
User Story: Size Estimate (paired with Story Points)
Relative, standard, effort estimations are essential that everyone on the implementation team is “on the same page.” to sizing the user stories. Although “Story Points” is “Out of the Box” for User Stories, a “Size Estimate” field is not. Relative effort estimations I’ve used before are Tee Shirt sizes (X-small, small, medium, large, X-large), and can be correlated to Story Points to attempt to quantify the effort in days.
User Story: Lead Developer
A custom “Lead Developer” field is valuable for quickly identifying who performed the work. The current “Assigned To” person may not be the developer who implemented the User Story. Most likely, it’s a QA tester or the Product Owner for Accepting Stories.
This could be helpful if you want to track each developer’s progress either by the SUM of Story Points or the COUNT of Stories.
Risks to Compliment Issues
If you’re tracking “Issues,” an “Out of the Box” Azure DevOps work item, then why not add a custom object in the “Process” section called “Risk” and any fields you would like to track with that custom RIsk object?
Azure DevOps Extensions
Created by Microsoft, this extension may or may not already be rolled into the core Azure DevOps product. It’s ideal if you want to externalize in-depth reporting using Microsoft Power BI.
Open in Excel
Created by Microsoft DevLabs, this extension may or may not already be rolled into the core Azure DevOps product.
Azure DevOps Office® Integration 2019
The best tool for importing and exporting work items from Azure DevOps to and from MS Excel. It can be downloaded here.
Created by Microsoft, this extension may or may not already be rolled into the core Azure DevOps product. It’s the closest I’ve seen (for free) with a graphic depiction of delivery timeframes in a Gantt-like chart. You can’t print or export it, which is a massive inhibitor to sharing your timelines with stakeholders outside the ADO universe.
Created by Microsoft DevLabs, this extension may or may not already be rolled into the core Azure DevOps product. It’s Planning Poker in Azure Boards. I enjoy Planning Poker, but this integration may be more convenient because it can save the Story Point values directly to the User Stories. Also, note some corporate environments BLOCK “Planning Poker” on the firewall due to the words in the URL.
Feature timeline and Epic Roadmap
This Azure DevOps extension by Microsoft DevLabs is a close 2nd to the “Delivery Plans” visualization of deliverables. Again, no export or print capabilities.
This extension is a “Must Have” for all teams leveraging the Scrum Retrospectives session. This extension, built by Microsoft DevLabs, is highly configurable and is ideal for remote teams unable to perform this activity in person.